Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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McFarland USA
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material, some violence and language
Release Date:
February 20, 2015

 

Big Hero 6
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements
Release Date:
November 7, 2014

The DUFF
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying
Release Date:
February 20, 2015

 

Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content
Release Date:
February 13, 2015

 

Beyond the Lights
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sexual content including suggestive gestures, partial nudity, language and thematic elements
Release Date:
November 14, 2014

I Capture the Castle

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

If Jane Austen’s protagonists lived in a world of embroidered silk, spinning graceful webs to catch spouses in a rigid system of behavior and class, then the heroines of “I Capture the Castle” inhabit a place as charmingly eccentric as their green-dyed dresses, finding love with humor and idiosyncratic flair. This movie is a lovely coming-of-age story as rough as ripped stockings and possessing all the charm of an eccentric tea cozy. While some of the characters are thinly acted and fans of the book will feel this adaptation is wanting, the film succeeds overall due to its engaging narrator.

The movie closely follows Dodie Smith’s book, which was first released in 1948, but which takes place in 1936 during the hopeful pause between two wars. [On a side note, savvy readers might recognize Smith as the author of 101 Dalmatians.] “I Capture the Castle” was unavailable to American audiences for decades during which time old copies circulated widely with its popularity driven by word of mouth alone. Bouncing back and forth over the hurdle of maturity, the delightful Cassandra Mortain is the 17-year-old diarist who takes it upon herself to describe in endearing detail her family, their decreasingly genteel poverty, their brushes with love and, of course, their rented castle.

Cassandra (played superbly by Romola Garai) neatly transcribes the very unromantic aspects of living in a decrepit castle with not enough to eat. Distracted and caustic, her father James Mortmain (Bill Nighy), is the author of a brilliant book twelve years before who cannot find a way to start writing again but instead locks himself away to read murder mysteries while the family protects him by selling off the furniture. Cassandra’s stepmother is the practical but ethereal and free-spirited Topaz (Tara FitzGerald, clearly enjoying herself) who believes her gift is to be a muse and who routinely takes herself out of her cares by going naked into the night.

While Mortmain locks himself in the castle’s equivalent of the attic, the men of the house are younger brother Thomas (Joe Sowerbutts), who is still in school and the loyal Stephen (Henry Cavill) who remains as a servant although he has not been paid in years. Cassandra’s beautiful and ambitious older sister, Rose (Rose Byrne) was weaned on the stories of Jane Austen/the Bronte sisters and longs to escape to a world of peach colored towels and silk stockings by marrying money, which seems a highly unlikely prospect until the property’s new owners arrive.

Once the two American grandsons of the castle’s owner come back to inherit the place and its much grander neighbor, Scoatney Hall, the Mortmain family are turned upside down as the sisters fall for the brothers in a scramble, in Rose’s case, tainted by the allure of wealth. Older brother Simon (E.T.’s protagonist grown older and weedier, Henry Thomas) and Anglophobic Neil (Buffy the Vampire Slayers’ ex-boyfriend, Marc Blucas) discover the Mortmains with a mixture of awe and fear, but are quickly enamored of their quirky charms. This story does not have any “brick wall happy” endings but it is a fresh reminder of the tart taste of first love and the disarming sweetness of becoming an adult.

For those who have read the book the two-dimensionality and casting of supporting characters likely will be a disappointment. This factor is especially true for Neil, who looses his humor and gentleness in the translation to celluloid; for Thomas (Rose and Cassandra’s brother) who has become younger, less interesting and Harry Potter-esque in his looks although not his charm; and, for the much anthropomorphized pets Abelard and Heloise. The movie is still too book-bound and static, losing the subtlety of the words on the page without using film to fill it in.

Parents should know that there are mature themes to this coming of age movie. One character clearly intends to marry for money and lies about her motives. Extramarital affairs are implied in several situations. Two characters, Topaz in particular, “embrace the elements” by being nude in nature as a way of relaxing. The scenes where Mortmain loses his temper might be frightening to younger viewers, especially when he turns his anger towards his daughter.

Families might wish to discuss the issues of gender and class as they are depicted in the movie. What is Stephen’s role in the family? Why does Cassandra’s father tell her to be “brisk” with Stephen? What do the different women see as their role, and why do at least two of them seem to want to inspire art rather than create it? Why might someone in Rose’s position feel that her only option to succeed in life would be to marry someone wealthy? What would you have done if you were living in the castle in those times under those circumstances? Think about what actions Cassandra make that can be described as more “mature” and others that are more “childish;” what are the differences?

In the book, Smith makes frequent allusions to Austen/Bronte and how they influenced the Mortmain sisters. Families might enjoy discussing the differences and similarities between the Jane Austen protagonists of the early 1800’s and the Mortmain sisters in 1936.

For families who enjoyed this movie, Cold Comfort Farm is another tongue-in-cheek look at the pull of a rural English family from the thrall of the Austen Era into the “Modern Times” of the 1930’s. Also, families might be interested in seeing Gosford Park, an extremely well acted mystery with themes for more mature teens. The book “I Capture the Castle” is also a treat.

Gigli

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2003

This misbegotten mess is less a movie than a string of over-the-top audition monologues, those random set-pieces designed to show off an actor’s facility with language and attitude. Those can be entertaining in their own way, but they do not have anything to do with creating a character or telling a story, just two of the many movie-making essentials that are missing in “Gigli.”

Ben Affleck plays Larry Gigli (pronounced to rhyme with “really”), a small-time enforcer for a small-time hood named Louis. Larry’s latest assignment is to kidnap a retarded young man named Brian (Justin Bartha) to help Louis and his colleagues apply some pressure to Brian’s brother. So Larry picks up Brian and brings him back to his apartment.

A beautiful woman (Jennifer Lopez) who says her name is Ricki tells Larry that she has also been hired by Louis to make sure he does not mess up the job. Larry’s macho ego is affronted, but he is attracted to Ricki, even after she tells him she is gay.

A lot of bickering and bantering later, much of it involving mind-numbing debates over who is the boss and straight vs. gay sex, plus encounters with the mother of one and the ex-lover of the other, Larry and Ricki have to decide whether they are willing to hurt or kill Brian and that leads them to think differently about themselves and each other.

The movie has the traditional odd couple structure — friction, the chance to prove themselves to one another, mutual epiphinies, and finally, respect and affection. But it never finds any tone or direction or believable connection between the characters.

Larry is a one-dimensional dim but macho guy. Ricki is a one-dimensional fantasy figure. Their bickering has no spark, and the evolution of their relationship is not grounded in any way because they are not really characters, just attributes and attitude, with no internal consistency. Larry is devoted to his mother in one scene, but seems to have no thought about abandoning her in another.

The narrative is choppy. It was probably recut following test screenings, but the effect is to make the events unconnected to each other, without any direction or momentum. Let me also point out that in addition to the overdone odd couple plot device, the movie includes several elements from the “should never be in another movie” list, including a vocabulary-building hood and a noble disabled person whose disability shifts according to the requirements of each scene and who transforms the lives of the supposedly normal people around him.

Meanwhile, somewhere in there Christopher Walken (as a cop) and Al Pacino (as a crime boss) drop by for the showy audition-monologue-style scenes that have some verve but add nothing to the plot, tone, or themes of the movie. So does Lainie Kazan, in yet another ethnic earth-mother role, (we really did not need to see her thong underwear — another thing that should be on the “never in another movie list”). Indeed, there really is nothing that could be called plot, tone, or theme in this movie. For a brief, mad, moment I had a flicker of a thought that the mundane inanity of the sordid and petty imperatives imposed on Larry and Ricki might be some Samuel Beckett-style commentary on the existential void. Then I realized that watching the movie put me closer to the existential void than they ever were, and that Godot would arrive long before this movie went anywhere.

It’s not the worst movie ever. It’s not even the worst movie of the year. And it’s not as bad as the Jen/Ben backlash want it to be. But it is not a good movie, and it is a terrible waste of talent.

Parents should know that this movie has graphic violence, non-stop profanity, and extremely explicit sexual references and situations. A character attempts suicide and then disappears from the story. In a better movie, the fact that the most capable and intelligent character is a bi-sexual Hispanic woman would be more worthwhile. Bartha’s portrayal of Brian is probably the most natural and authentic of the movie, but the character of the retarded man is the stereotypical noble disabled person and really no more than a prop for the other characters to react to.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Brian made Larry and Ricki feel differently about their choice of careers. What did it mean when Ricki finally told Larry her real name? What do you think of Sun Tzu’s view that in a a conflict, “angry is a statistically stupid move?” Have you ever used anger to mask sadness? What do you think about the advice to do the thing you’re most afraid of?

Families who like this movie will like director Martin Brest’s much better odd couple movie Midnight Run, starring Robert de Niro and Charles Grodin as a bounty hunter and his bail-jumping captive. They might also enjoy Prizzi’s Honor, about another odd-couple romance of two professional hitmen (I guess a hit-man and a hit-woman) and the quirky Welcome to Collinwood, about a ragtag group of small-time crooks with the dream of just one big-time heist. Rain Man, referred to in this movie, is an Oscar-winning story about a man who meets up with his autistic brother. And in Chasing Amy (for the most mature audiences only), Ben Affleck again plays a heterosexual man in love with a gay woman.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2003

This movie has a better plot, better characters, and better acting than the first one, but let’s be honest about it — no one is going to see this movie for the plot, characters, and acting. The audience for this movie wants to see the movie version of the popular computer game, with Angelina Jolie in very tight clothes decking, kicking, and shooting as many bad guys as possible. All of that is there, and the distractions of plot, character, and acting barely get in the way.

Jolie plays Lady Lara Croft, archeologist/adventurer. Off the coast of San Torini, she discovers an ancient sunken library. Just as she reaches for a glowing yellow orb, the bad guys arrive. When a shot fired by one of them grazes Lara, the blood attracts a shark. Lara punches the shark in the nose and hops on board to ride it back up to the surface of the ocean. That’s the kind of movie this is.

It turns out that the orb is a map to Pandora’s Box. In the myth, Pandora was a curious woman who could not resist opening the box she was told must stay closed. Inside was all the trouble in the world. This Pandora’s Box contains virulent biological agents that will unleash a plague on the world. Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds), a former Nobel Prize winner turned international dealer in biological weapons, wants what’s in the box and Lara, at the request of the Queen, wants to stop him.

In order to do that, she has to get Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), her one-time love-turned mercenary, out of prison. Together, they go after Reiss and the orb in exotic locations, with exotic equipment and modes of transportation, all over the world.

Director Jan de Bont (“Twister,” “Speed”) knows how to stage action, and there are some genuine thrills, especially when Lara and Terry don flying suits that have them soaring through the air like Rocky the Flying Squirrel. Jolie is always fun to watch. But the computer-game origins of the movie are replicated in the staged level-style series of action sequences, and that removes any narrative momentum.

Parents should know that the movie has a lot of violence and peril, some very graphic. Characters are hurt and killed. There are a couple of bad words, and some passionate kisses and sexual references.

Families who see this movie should talk about how Lara decides what is important to her.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Johnny English

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2003

This mild spy parody has nothing new, but Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”) is a gifted comedian who manages to wring some new laughs with material that has already been fully explored in movies from Our Man Flint and Dean Martin’s Matt Helm movies to Spy Hard and Mike Meyers’ Austin Powers series.

Atkinson plays Johnny English, a low-level bureaucrat in England’s spy service who has Walter Mitty dreams of being a field agent. When all of the agents are wiped out through his ineptitude, he gets his chance.

England’s crown jewels have been stolen by French zillionaire Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich with a Pepe LePew accent), who plans to take over England and turn it into a prison facility. It’s up to Johnny English, his sidekick Bough (pronounced “Boff”) and woman of mystery Natalie Imbruglia to save the day. The spy parts aren’t exciting enough and the funny parts aren’t funny enough, but the overall effect is mildly amusing.

Parents should know that there are a few PG-rated naughty words and some bathroom jokes. Kids not familiar with the long-term French-English political and cultural clashes may be confused by the animosity between the French and English characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was so hard for Johnny English to admit that he had made a mistake.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Bill Murray’s The Man Who Knew Too Little .

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